Sunday, February 18, 2007

Add Cash to CharlieCard

New find sheds light on an old T stop - The Boston Globe:
"T officials said this week that based on customer complaints, they also plan to clarify the language on the screens of fare vending machines this spring.

We took the T to task a while back about the screen term 'Stored Value,' prodding them to add the words 'Bus/Subway' to make it clear to customers what button they need to press to buy a bus or subway ticket."
I have two questions:

1. Who designs these screens? It's clear to me that 'stored value' means nothing. Adding Bus/Subway is a start, but they've got a whole big screen to work with. How about: Add Cash to a CharlieCard for Subway and Bus.

2. Why will it take until Spring to make the change. They're computers, right?

I just bought a CharlieCard online.

After logging out of the system I got this message:

"You are logout."


Maybe they can fix that in the Spring too.


  1. Stored value is an industry term for a prepaid card. The fact that they're using that term means that someone formerly working in the credit card industry is running the CharlieCard program.

  2. All this suggests off-shore developers to me, with a spec written by insiders.
    Did they ever beta-test this?

  3. Anonymous11:42 PM

    > Did they ever beta-test this?

    That's what we're all doing now ;-p

    As far as the time lag for updates, each release hopefully gets a lot of "alpha-testing" to make sure the financial aspects are correct and secure. Those in charge of this security probably insist that all releases, even just user-interface updates, go through all these tests.

    Also, these machines come under the heading of "embedded systems", as opposed to "general purpose computers" e.g. your pc., and as such probably have no hard-drive.

    Modern embedded systems tend to use "flash" memory to hold the software (aka 'firmware'), which can be updated over a network. But because of the financial nature of these systems, the maker may have opted to require physical access to each well-padlocked machine. (And possibly storing all software on older "eprom" chips, which requires replacing the chip to change the software.) Better security (or at least easier for the designer), but updates have to be done infrequently, in groups.

  4. Anonymous3:49 AM

    1. Engineers
    2. Politics

  5. They call them CharlieCards now? Funny that 'Charlie on the MTA' was written to protest high fares, and complicated pricing structures...and now you've got just that...higher prices and complicated pricing structures.